New GOP Bill Would Bar Enviro Reviews from Considering Climate

Republicans on the Senate environment committee, who months ago began criticizing the Obama administration for evaluating federally funded infrastructure projects for their impact on climate change, today introduced legislation that would bar the White House from making climate a factor in environmental reviews.

john_barrasso_john_thune_2009_9_30_16_10_56.jpgSen. John Barrasso (R-WY), one of the new NEPA bill's sponsors, holds up a copy of the Senate climate legislation. (Photo: AP)
The GOP senators said their bill was aimed at ensuring the government could not delay new road and power-plant construction to gauge its climate impacts under the precepts of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). That 40-year-old statute that requires local planners to conduct reviews of any transport project that could significantly impact the health of surrounding areas.

"As it stands, NEPA is subject to frequent abuse by radical environmentalists who want to use litigation to impose their agenda on federal agencies," Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), one of the measure's sponsors, said in a statement. "Our bill seeks to prevent that abuse."

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), responding to a petition from green groups, issued draft guidance in February that asked agencies to evaluate the climate impacts of new projects estimated to increase emissions by 25,000 metric tons or more of CO2 -- the same level that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used for its rule on mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas production.

As the EPA noted in its explanation of the 25,000 metric ton threshold, such a level of emissions would be equivalent to 4,600 new passenger cars or the energy use of 2,3000 new homes.

The CEQ's guidance is not set to become final until after a period of public comment ends next month.